How One Man Tried to Write Women Out of CRISPR, the Biggest Biotech Innovation in Decades
“It’s hard to recall a revolution that has swept biology more swiftly than CRISPR,” Lander, a biologist at MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute, wrote, noting that, although nearly every molecular biologist is familiar with the technology that allows scientists to easily disable or change the function of genes, they are likely unfamiliar with the manpower that went into its discovery.
“Yet, the human stories behind scientific advances can teach us a lot about the miraculous ecosystem that drives biomedical progress,” he continued, “about the roles of serendipity and planning, of pure curiosity and practical application, of hypothesis-free and hypothesis-driven science, of individuals and teams, and of fresh perspectives and deep expertise.”
What Lander failed to recognize in his article—and what many of his colleagues and commenters on the piece have recently condemned him for—is that his institute is currently involved in a billion-dollar patent dispute with the University of California’s Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Germany, which played a vital role in developing CRISPR-Cas9. Not only did the Cell paper fail to disclose the potential conflict of interest, it significantly minimized the role of Doudna’s lab in advancing the technology.